OF ALL the reactions to the child protection crisis, one that is very concerning is the bill passed by the Massachusetts House to take discretion away from the Department of Children and Families to approve families for foster homes where there is criminal history (“Bill targets foster homes with former convicts,” Metro, Feb. 13).
Contrary to the statement of the bill’s sponsor, Representative Bradley H. Jones Jr., DCF has an effective, well-established policy for assessing criminal histories in families. It includes thorough procedures for gathering and assessing information and requires oversight and approval on several administrative levels before any home where a family member has criminal history is approved.
Many relatives of children in foster care have been involved with the criminal justice system at some point. But these incidents may be decades old and pose no risk to children. Over the years the child welfare system has embraced kinship care. Research has found that children in kinship foster care experience fewer placement changes, have fewer behavior problems, experience less anxiety and depression, and are more likely to report that they “always felt loved” than children placed in unrelated foster homes where they do not know the family.
Although the ban would only be temporary until the report of the Child Welfare League of America is received, it would further reduce already limited options for children who need placement outside their homes. The Legislature should hold off passage of this misinformed bill until the report is received.